Srinagar: Kashmiri civil society has started a campaign named ‘Save Chinar’ against the chopping of Chinar trees in Srinagar.
People from different walks of life participated in a protest demonstration, streamed live on Facebook by few of the social activists.
One such activist and owner of Kathi Junction, Sarah City Center, Javid Parsa also streamed the protest live on the banned social media site.
Other prominent people who participated in the protest demonstration include artist and comedian Taha Naqash, Basit Ahmad from Free Press Kashmir, philanthropist Hamid and RTI activist Ghulam Rasool.
The participants appealed for more support from the people so as to save Chinar trees from being felled in the future.
A human chain was later formed by the participants around a Chinar tree while promising to continue the campaign to force the authorities take back their decision and help save Chinar.
Maryah Charoo, a Facebook user, supporting ‘Save Chinar’ campaign, commented: “We must all register our protest against this felling of Chinar trees or other trees for that matter… maybe something like The Chipko Movement of 1973 can be helpful in preventing more damage to our heritage. Chinar is the face of Kashmir. The authorities should stop this at once.”
“Where is that law which prohibited cutting chinar? Or Government is above law?”, asked another user Muhammad Aasim.
Pertinently, four Chinar trees at Tourist Reception Center, Srinagar were felled on Tuesday by Economic Reconstruction Agency (ERA) to pay wave for the construction of flyover.
ERA which is currently constructing flyover at Tourist Reception Centre said felling of Chinar trees was unavoidable.
People from different walks of life criticized the move terming it as an attempt to destroy Kashmir’s identity.
“Even if it is part of the flyover project, they should not cut down the trees which are adding beauty and attracting the tourists. This is an inhuman act,” said Manzoor Ahmad, a tea vendor at TRC.
He said on the one hand authorities claim that they would plant trees to add the greenery but on the other hand they are involved in open onslaught of these trees.
“They have cut down two 300-year-old Chinars. It is the only attraction in Srinagar and soul of valley. This is the identity of Kashmir,” said the angry vendor.
People raised a number of serious questions over the onslaught of Chinars in the heart of Srinagar.
“It is unfortunate. I felt unhappy after I saw felling of Chinar trees. God has bestowed us with this gift and we must protect them rather cutting them down,” said Danish who was passing by when Chinar trees were cut down.
The shedding of Chinar leaves marks the onset of autumn and add new dimension to the Valley’s landscape.
Witnesses at the site said that the flyover would have been diverted to save the heritage tree.
“The trees are disappearing fast due to people’s ignorance and official apathy. Government should have diverted the flyover to some other side,” said Mohammad Asif, a commuter.
He said that people especially commuters would take rest in the shades of Chinars here.
During summer the commuters would stay here to escape from the heat waves.
Prominent poet and writer Zareef Ahmad Zareef also expressed serious concern over the cutting of Chinars. “It is really a condemnable act. Why should they cut down trees? It is not fair. The Chinars were one the side of the road and would have been saved,” he said.
He also asked youth to be active and raise voice against any kind of damage to the Chinars across the valley.
Director ERA Satish Rajdan said that they have sought permission from the authorities to cut the Chinar trees. “There is dire need of the flyover and the trees have been cut down as a part of the upcoming project,” he said.
He said that he had tried alternative proposals to save the trees but it was not possible to divert the flyover. “I am also grieved but the developmental protects are also needed. We tried to save the trees but there was no alternative,” he said.
“We have requested the government that we will share funds to plants more Chinars on road side in Srinagar,” he added.
Though the felling and lopping of Chinars is banned in the Valley, the population of these trees is declining every year.